Rather Be Reading » A Young Adult Book Blog by Two Busy Girls Who Always Find Time For a Book

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Summer Reads Make Me Feel Fine

Yesterday was the first day of fall and I actually had to bring a jacket for my early morning walk to the subway. Two weeks ago, I thought sweating through my dresses was going to be a constant in my life because whoa, I did that a lot this summer. (Gross but true.) Needless to say, I’m so looking forward to cozy sweaters, hot lattes, and breaking in a new pair of boots.

Despite the heat, it was a really good – somewhat odd? – summer. My husband obsessed with studying for the bar (as he should have been). I visited a friend in her Gilmore Girls-esque Massachusetts town, got to hang out with M in Texas(!!), and returned to Savannah for a trip with no set alarms and a lot more sweating because, oh right, it was 110 degrees. (Not kidding.) There were some new bars to sample with our trusty beer passport, and, like I had wanted to, gave away/sold/donated at least fifty books that have been cluttering my apartment. I worked out almost every day (thanks to Cassie for keeping me on track!) and cooked with zucchini so much. Lots of fun, sun, spirits, and organizing!

And, of course, reading. I meant to have this post ready for the actual first day of autumn but as you know, the Muppets take precedent in my household. (Did you watch? I really, really enjoyed it and can’t wait for more!) I’m going to share 15 of my top reads from over the summer, but first, a few stats…

From Memorial Day (May 26) until the last full day of summer (September 22), I read 59 books. (Eee!)

  • 14 of 59 were books I owned or were gifted
  • 8 of 59 were borrowed from the library
  • 12 of 59 were published before 2014.
  • 12 of 59 were romance novels.
  • I only bought 4 physical books the entire summer. (Three of these were in the last week.)

The super-special winners:


Contemporary fiction:

Stay by Allie Larkin: dogs, cute old man, LOLs
Maybe in Another Life by Tara Jenkins Reid: two roads, two men, solid best friend
Night Blindness by Susan Strecker: dads & daughters, childhood, secrets
Come Away With Me by Karma Brown: travel, marriage, strife

Young adult:

Dumplin‘ by Julie Murphy: Dolly Parton, pageants, best friends
Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian: bisexuality, fathers & sons, independence
Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Morarity: letters, new friendship, laughs
A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery: grief, sisters, pretending
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler: magic, little brothers, seaside town
What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi: single dad, supportive mom, sacrifice
Noggin by John Corey Whaley: science, time, a bit wacky
Hello Goodbye and Everything In Between by Jennifer E. Smith: college, decisions, tissues
Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway: reunions, surfing, friendship
The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell: Japan, ALS, online friends

New adult:

Second Position by Katherine Locke: second chances, dance, secrets


Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu: sisters, darkness, light

Ah! What a great summer it was. Hope you not only read some awesome books this summer but you made the most of your weekends and vacations days with friends, family, and new adventures.

Here’s to a fabulous fall (with lots of pumpkins and fun socks)!

Psst. Did I miss out on any special reads? Be sure to let me know below.

October 5, 2015 - 4:29 pm

Emma @ Miss Print - These are some fun books! Since you are an arbiter of good taste, many of these are still on my to read list (or were added after reading your reviews!).

October 3, 2015 - 1:39 pm

Cindy - 59 books this summer?! That is AMAZING! I think I read like 5 and was doing a happy dance. Hope the Fall is just as great for you!

September 26, 2015 - 12:50 am

JO - Hi,

Thank you for sharing this one with us. This is truly inspiring and it completely reminds me of the author I have been following since last year.

From now on, I will also follow this blog.

Anyhow, here’s the link to one of my favorite authors for your references – http://www.thevaleriechristophercommunity.com/

Thank you.

September 25, 2015 - 12:31 pm

Alexa S. - It looks like you had some amazing summer reading experiences, E! I definitely see a few titles I really loved too, and I certainly see a few I’d like to check out. So glad that you were able to stick to your guns and only buy four books! YOU ARE MY HERO.

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A Bad Romance with a Happy Ending | Dive Into Diversity

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

I sound like a broken record but because of tech issues we are a little late this month with the Dive Into Diversity challenge. Oops. But here we are and just a few months left in the year! I can’t believe it. I’ve decided to go in a whole new direction with today’s check-in post because I was inspired (motivated? annoyed?) by a recent read of mine that falls in the romance category.

I read quite a bit of romance and I’ll sadly admit that the number of diverse characters I’ve come across is slim. (See: a lesbian/WOC supporting character in Victoria Dahl’s Flirting with Disaster and Liberty in Lisa Kleypas’ Sugar Daddy who is half Mexican.) This is why I was so excited when I found out an Asian American woman would be taking centerstage in the next volume of a series I’ve been reading. My expectations didn’t go beyond: it’s nice to know there’s more ethnicity reflected in this town than I imagined. But my excitement quickly turned to discomfort when I realized there was absolutely no nuance to her character. She was tiny and had black hair. She worked as a manicurist and then a nurse. She was over-protective of her son, and so proud she didn’t want to let anyone into her business. It was like the author had taken a list of Asian stereotypes and manifested a one-dimensional character with zero spark. She was so connected to her culture yet never questioned how her and her son were the only non-whites living in their town? The introduction of this character — through welcomed with open arms by everyone — made it glaringly obvious to this reader just how depthless this population was.

I was disappointed.

Readers are smart, and a seasoned one is going to be able to tell when the extra legwork has taken place, especially when it means researching a culture enough that it doesn’t pop off the page like a stereotype but instead is a respectful representation. Case in point: Not an ethnicity example but this weekend I read Katherine Locke’s Finding Center and stopped in the middle (for just a second), turned to my husband and said, you could totally tell how much research this author did on people with disabilities and the details of how a prosthetic would work for a dancer.

“Seeing someone who looks like you reflected in the pages of a book as a fully rendered, three-dimensional character can be powerful and transformational,” said Bobbi Dumas in this NPR blog post from 2014.


For more than the year I’ve been doing this challenge (and probably since the birth of Rather Be Reading), I’ve worked to make sure my reading is full of eclectic characters from all types of backgrounds. In addition to that, I try to seek out authors who are underrepresented. Awareness comes at different times for everyone but I think in the past few weeks and with the annoyance of the above reading adventure, I’ve undoubtably committed myself to seeking out books in this genre that smartly put me in touch with main characters – and authors – from all walks of life.

So I’ve added a few books to my list so far: A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev; Making the First Move by Reese Ryan; Rumor Has It by Cheris Hodges; World Cup Hook Up by Katrina Ramos Atienza; The Way Love Goes by Christina C. Jones.

But I need some more suggestions! So feel free to leave some below. I appreciate it!

More reading on this topic:

Don’t forget to jump over to Reading Wishes where Rebecca checked out the level of diversity represented on the shelves of her local bookstore. (This was such a great post!)

September 30, 2015 - 11:04 pm

Crystal - I mostly read YA and younger so don’t have a whole lot of adult titles to offer. Have you read A Signal to Noise? I really enjoyed that one this year and it’s a little older than YA. Mambo in Chinatown is another that I read last year.

September 28, 2015 - 4:03 am

Rebecca @ Reading Wishes - Great post, Estelle! I don’t read romance – yet – but I can imagine the lack of diversity. It’s sad the book you read wrote a stereotypical Asian character, but I’m glad you’re finding other diverse romance titles that deliver! I haven’t read it yet, but The Ivy Years by Sarina Bowen is supposed to be fantastic. I think it’s NA? I found this list via Twitter earlier this month with lots of rec’s: https://t.co/ry4MNHaOrt and here’s a blog that focuses on diverse romance: http://romancenovelsincolor.com Hope that helps!

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Movin’ Write Along | Puppets and Pages

Hi, strangers! After a series of unfortunate events (i.e. tech issues), I’m back with a fun post I’ve been scheming about for a few months. Except I had no idea it would be SO hard. (Thanks to everyone who answered this tweet yesterday afternoon.) Today, we’re talking Muppets. Unless you haven’t watched ABC or ESPN lately or follow my Twitter feed, you might have NO idea that the Muppets are debuting a brand new TV show TOMORROW. Guess what? The Muppets are debuting a brand new show tomorrow. I cannot believe it. In the past five years — my Muppet love reignited — I was just happy to get a movie every few years and now every week there is going to be something new to enjoy. It’s a dream come true.

Young adult books and the Muppets have a lot in common. If you are an adult that likes either, the wrong people probably give you a side-eye and wonder why someone so seemingly intelligent and wonderful loves something so childlike. My answer: shush. Young adult books are written well and make me happy. And unlike this article states, the Muppets were actually created FOR adults. But because of Sesame Street, Jim Henson had to constantly remind people this was the case. I would probably bet it’s one of the biggest misconceptions of this franchise. Anyway…

Today I’m pairing the four main Muppets with young adult books I hope you’ll check out, and who knows — maybe the Muppets will find some downtime in between filming new episodes to pick up their chosen title too.

The Muppets and Young Adult Books List

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy | Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Boys Don’t Knit by T.S. Easton | Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando

And special shout-out to Willowdean with this vintage video of Miss Piggy hanging out with Dolly Parton (that hair!):

This is where I urge you to watch THE MUPPETS tomorrow on ABC. (I’m even DVRing Lea Michele
in her new show for this — you know I’m decided.) Have a happy Muppet Monday!

(Oh hey, I’ve been writing Muppet haikus for the past few weeks on Instagram via @ifeltforyoueveryday
if you want to see some more silliness.)

October 5, 2015 - 3:53 pm

Emma @ Miss Print - I bet you thought I’d forgotten about this post! I still love the idea just as much as when you first mentioned it. The more I think about Miss Piggy and Dumplin’ in particular, the more I love the connection. So much fun.

September 26, 2015 - 12:54 am

jo - This one is truly interesting, informative and entertaining. I would love to follow this and so on… Thumbs UP!

September 24, 2015 - 4:46 pm

Alexa S. - This post!! Your love for the Muppets is one of the things I will always remember, and I love that you combined it with your love for YA novels. Spot on choices!

September 24, 2015 - 8:01 am

Summer Reads Make Me Feel Fine - […] Movin' Write Along | Puppets and Pages […]

September 22, 2015 - 9:30 pm

Chrystal - Love this! Great image! :)

September 22, 2015 - 5:01 am

Weekly Round Up: September 22 | Mouse on the Mind - […] One Little Spark of Inspiration Estelle, who still writes on Rather Be Reading, shares some very Muppet-y YA novels. […]

September 21, 2015 - 4:32 pm

Lauren @ Bookmark Lit - Haha this is awesome! I haven’t ever really watched the Muppets (in years, at least), so this could be very helpful :)

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On the Road to Hoppiness | Pub Date

Pub Date Header

Timing couldn’t be more impeccable for this Pub Date focused on CAREERS and HOBBIES. I just celebrated one year at my job working in publicity at an academic press. It probably goes without saying that book blogging inspired my career change in ways. It’s been challenging year full of new experiences and it’s nice and refreshing and all sorts of wonderful to feel proud of the work I’m churning out. (Though, if we could get more hours in the day, I’d be thrilled.)

Today’s beer pick is especially fitting: Two Roads Honeyspot Road IPA. The name is all about journey and it’s a smooth beer you can’t help but enjoy after a busy day at the office. For someone who never used to like IPAs, I’m quite a fan these days but this particular brew is great for someone just easing into hoppier beers. It’s not overwhelming at all.

And the book? Such a tough one but I’m going to go with Girl Before a Mirror by the incredible Liza Palmer. I read it in the early spring, and still believe everyone (especially the ladies) need to get their hands on this book. What do you do when you are feeling powerless and unhappy? When do you get to a point where you trust your gut and move forward to better yourself? When do your own needs and desires take centerstage over others because you realize there’s no way you can be of help to them without helping yourself first? Career, friendship, romance, family — all of life’s fun complications are thrown into this thoughtful, amazing book that truly feels like it could be an Estelle bible.

Pub Date Careers Rather Be Reading Blog

Here’s to a fantastic weekend, silly IT blog issues disappearing, and going after what we want.


Share a brew: Book Addict’s Guide | Just a Couple More Pages | Andi ABC’s

September 24, 2015 - 10:26 am

Alexa S. - Happy one year anniversary at your job, E! I can’t believe it’s flown by so fast. It’s seriously awesome :) And yay for this book rec. LOVED Girl Before a Mirror!

September 22, 2015 - 9:25 pm

Lauren @ Bookmark Lit - I love this beer! And I’ve been meaning to read this book (I even own it). Love your picks! These posts are so fun

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It was the night before college | Latest from Jen E. Smith

Here’s what I remember about my last night at home before I left for college: I was one of the last of my friends to go away. I watched Donnie Darko with my then-boyfriend. Afterwards he gave me a gift: a copy of my favorite movie so I could watch it when I was at school (I only had a VHS copy up until that point) and a ceramic turtle he had had forever to remind me of him (I still have the turtle actually). I went to bed and the next morning, my parents and I woke up at the crack of dawn to leave for my new adventure. It’s impossible to read Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between without remembering the very odd summer I had at home just before college. There wasn’t a ton of time between graduation and actually packing up for school, but in those three months I managed to work a lot at my part-time jobs at CVS and The Disney Store, get a new boyfriend, and fill up our family van with all the crap I needed for school. I went to the beach with my best friend, had swim parties with my high school pals, and attended (what felt like) a million graduation parties.

I was sad and I was nervous about leaving but I also felt ready. My parents and I needed some space and after going to school in the same town for my whole life, I was ready to go somewhere where no one knew me even if this meant leaving my new boyfriend behind. Unlike Claire and Aiden, we didn’t have two years under our belt and reading Jen Smith’s new novel made me realize we had never discussed even breaking up our relationship. There was so much drama tangled up in us getting together in the first place, and ending everything before it even really started was never an option. Long distance was just going to be a thing we did. So as much as Hello, Goodbye is the perfect read for teenagers in that shaky place right now — when you have no idea what decision is right or wrong and have to make one anyway — I felt just as affected as an adult, 10 years since my freshman year, who has already experienced an endgame to many of Claire’s concerns. I understood Claire’s back and forth about whether or not to stay with Aiden once they went away to different schools, and her legit fear of being so distracted with the past she wouldn’t embrace her present. How the summer she envisioned hanging out with her best friends until they were physically unable to any longer didn’t quite happen that way.

Confession: I was totally that girl Claire didn’t want to be. I’d like to think that if my then-boyfriend would have decided to let go of his old girlfriend maybe I would have been less of an anxious, insane freshman who was more wrapped up with the ex-girlfriend’s suspicious away messages and the glaring fact that this guy and I were not solid enough to deal with a presence such as hers. In the middle of all that, a guy I graduated with and worked with died the second month I was at school. I didn’t even realize until years later how withdrawn I was during that first year. Two of the girls in my suite are still close friends, and now we can certainly look back and laugh about that crazy first year but whoa, they were concerned. I was 100 miles away from home, stranded without a car with a boyfriend who barely had a cell phone, and a wild imagination. (You would have been too; this ex was terrifying.)

All Claire wanted to do was save herself some grief by ending things with Aiden. She didn’t want to wonder about what he was doing or who he was meeting. She didn’t want to stop herself from meeting and doing too. Strangely, I felt proud of her. Because an itty bitty part of me wonders what would have happened if I had explored ALL the options instead of going with the one I wanted the most. Would I have spent less time on the internet? Smiled and socialized more? Spent less time looking up schools to transfer to in the middle of the school year?

Maybe. That’s the thing. As much as we plan and hope, life has the tendency to have a mind of its own. So while I was impressed with Claire’s focus to reach a cut and dry solution to the future of her and Aiden’s relationship, I also wanted to shake her and just tell her to enjoy that last night because if that evening was any indication, there were plenty of surprises in store for her on this new adventure and sometimes you just have to let them happen.

 Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by  Jennifer E. SmithHello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith captures the extreme doubt and excitement associated with new adventures and new beginnings in an agonizingly realistic and bittersweet way. After two years together, can Claire and Aiden continue their relationship when so many factors are left unknown as they leave for college? Will their friendships with best friends Stella and Scotty survive distance? In a rare look at the night before their time at home and in high school ends for good, Smith delivers an emotional ride peppered with quirky twists and turns and questions of independence and dependability. Plus a lot of tears from this reader. It’ll make you reflect, wonder, and look around and realize: sometimes you just have to move with change and have a little faith.

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October 6, 2015 - 10:34 am

EG - I really like how you connected in this blog post and shared your story. I have read some of her books and they are good. I love to read so it is cool to see people who love to read too. What types of books are your favorite?

September 18, 2015 - 10:46 am

Alexa S. - I love that you got personal and shared your own experience in that time before you left for college! Mine was very different, since I had never dated before college. But I was experiencing a lot of different feelings – excitement at new things, fear of leaving what I knew, a pull to spend extra time with my best friends and my family. It’s a very tumultuous period; I think Jen handled it so well in this one!

September 2, 2015 - 3:00 am

Rosie - Thanks for sharing your story and how you can relate to this. It’s not something I can really relate to since my boyfriend and I went to the same university, but I get how hard it could be if you were living away from your partner.

I really need to read some more Jennifer E. Smith, I read The Geography of Me and You when it first came out and absolutely loved it, so I think it’s about time I picked up something else of hers.

September 1, 2015 - 1:15 pm

Lauren @ Bookmark Lit - I love this. I had a long-term high school boyfriend (3 years by the start of college) who was staying home for community college; I was going a mere hour and a half away. We talked extensively about if we’d stay together (we had a LOT of issues that really should have ended things in the first place, when they happened – but that’s another story) and decided to try it out. An hour and a half isn’t even a big deal! Especially when he was still at HOME with a car and could reasonably visit weekly if he wanted to. I had always dreamed of going to North Carolina for school and put that dream in the back of my mind to stay “close” to him during college. I shouldn’t have done it and a part of me regrets it, but I did love my school. Anyways, we broke up within a month of me going off to school. We dated for three years and he broke up with me over AIM, if you can believe it. I had seen some mixed reviews on this book and had essentially decided to skip it, but this review/story makes me think again! I feel like I could really relate to and appreciate this plotline because of my personal experience. This is honestly the longest comment I’ve ever left but I wanted to share my two cents! <3

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This Love Bug | Romance Short List

Did you know August was Romance Awareness Month? Me neither. (Just made it!) I found out when I was doing some research for work, but hey, it is and here we are. Three romance recommendations that eased me back into work after vacation, accompanied me on a beer crawl, and kept me company on a “me night” (along with this beer). I always will equate romance novels with relaxation and a whole lot of fun. Thanks to these for providing that! Hope you find something to add to your list today.

Fighting for Keeps by Jennifer SnowFighting for Keeps by Jennifer Snow (Harlequin Heartwarming/ April 25, 2015): My first romance novel about a fighter, and I really liked it. Noah might fight for a living but he’s also focused on making sure young kids in his neighborhood have every opportunity to get a great education and support they might be missing. In the same town is Lindsay, a woman he’s been after forever. No amount of training has prepared him for her cold shoulder but when tragedy strikes and her life changes a ton, Noah is there for her. A sweet story about a woman who must finally realize she’s worth it and capable of everything, and a man who learns it’s okay to let his defenses down with the right person.

Add FIGHTING FOR KEEPS to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N

Thrill Me by Susan MalleryThrill Me by Susan Mallery (Harlequin HQN/July 28, 2015) I’ve read my fair share of Susan Mallery books, and I can say, hands down, this one is at the top of my list. Second chance love? Give me more of this. Maya is unexpectedly reunited with the only man she’s ever been in love with for a work project. Her and Del never exactly broke up either; she ran away from him and never looked back. On the surface, both seem at ease working on a marketing campaign for Fool’s Gold but, in reality, Maya’s wondering if she should bring up the past and Del is starting to remember how great everything felt when she was around. Not only was this book about bringing two people together again, but Maya is struggling with that next step in her life. Does she want to work in Fool’s Gold forever or is there more for her out there? I was utterly delighted by these two, happy to be back in the generous and sweet town of Fool’s Gold, and gobbled this book in less than a day.

Add THRILL ME to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N

One Wish by Robyn CarrA New Hope by Robyn Carr (Harlequin HQN/June 30, 2015): Every since I read ONE WISH, I was anxious to get to Ginger’s story. She’s a divorced young woman who lost her young child to SIDS and has now relocated to Thunder Point, working in an adorable flower shop. Robyn Carr overlaps Ginger’s story while continuing Grace’s from One Wish and I was glad for that. Grace’s story was far from over, and her friendship was so important to Ginger’s new lease on life. In this book, two people have to come to terms with their past and decide if they are ready to jump into a new adventure together. Matt makes a terrible first impression with Ginger but throughout A NEW HOPE, he certainly makes up for it. They grow to be close friends and take their next steps very slowly. I liked getting to know them a lot, enjoyed meeting a new character who will take centerstage in WILDEST DREAMS, and, once again, feeling charmed all over again by the Thunder Point citizens.

A nitpicky sidenote: I wish the ladies were featured on the covers of THUNDER POINT novels. I have no idea whose dog that is!

Add A NEW HOME to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N

Nothing beats a romance novel during a stressful week, let me tell ya. Thanks for reading, and be sure to share any recommendations below!

August 26, 2015 - 1:43 pm

Alexa S. - Had no idea that it was Romance Awareness Month! As always, your romance novel suggestions intrigue me. I’m very much interested in Susan Mallery’s novel especially, though I haven’t read anything from her yet. And I loved A New Hope. It was a nice addition to Thunder Point! (Wildest Dreams is awesome, by the way.)

August 26, 2015 - 9:41 am

Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook - I didn’t know August was Romance Awareness Month, either, but I’ve certainly been reading my fair share of romances. I just can’t get enough of them lately.

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